I’m running a quick impromptu by-the-seat-of-the-pants version of my Intro to Platinum/Palladium printing class this weekend. It’s a bit of a hash because we had scheduling conflicts of varying types to deal with, but we did manage to meet today. My normal plan with students is to take them out into Glen Echo park and have them shoot a bunch of negatives with my 5×7, then come back and process them. WELL… today, the daytime high was still below freezing, so we scratched that idea. Instead, we shot some self-portraits indoors using my Hermagis Eidoscope soft-focus portrait lens, a 1000-watt hot light (a VERY welcome hot light given the weather today!) and an improvised guillotine shutter composed of a pair of dark slides, held in a V-formation. The “shutter” starts with the lower dark slide completely covering the lens, and to allow exposure to happen, the pair are swung past the lens so that the gap between them briefly allows light to strike the film. Exposures can be a little variable, but these are forgiving media.
Here is one shot of one of my students:
and here are two of me:
I brought the Hermagis to class to give the students a little something special to play around with, since they both had past experience in working with large format, and I think the soft-focus lens fits very well with the alternative process print look.
Of the two of me, which do you all prefer? I know which one I like better, but I’ll wait to get some feedback before I offer my opinion. All three of these are scans from the negatives, not from prints. We will be meeting again tomorrow to do the actual printing.
Five more from the shoot. Wanchuk is a fun subject because he always brings a creative energy to a shoot that brings out the best in both photographer and subject.
I call that last one “Girl With a Pearl Earring” because the pose reminds me a bit of the Vermeer painting.
After doing a series of more serious poses, we decided to get a little funky and play around with faces and gestures.
This last one is not typical of what I’d expect someone to use a soft-focus lens to shoot, expression-wise. I think it works, in spite of or perhaps because of the contrast between the content and the image style.
I think I wrote previously about the Hermagis Eidoscope soft-focus portrait lens I have on loan. Here are some results from it. As the lens is on loan to me and not mine, I have not sent it off to have replacement waterhouse stops made for it. It was expensive enough modifying my camera to fit the lens – I don’t want to spend more money on accessories for a lens I’ll have to return. That said, as the only waterhouse stop I have for the lens is the wide-open f5 stop, that’s the only one I’ve been using. It’s not only the maximum amount of light but also the maximum soft-focus effect. I’ve been told that if you stop the Eidoscope down past f8, it becomes a much more regular, sharp lens. But this is what you want to see with this lens anyway – the soft-and-fuzzies.
I know the lens is flattering to women – I did not know if it would be too much for male portraiture though. I think my example here bears out the fact that it works well for both genders. Here is another portrait of my friend Wanchuk, this time a half-length shot with a different outfit. The soft-focus glow is especially apparent in this image, with the bright denim jacket giving lots of flare around the cuffs of the sleeves.
These were shot on Ilford FP4+, with the lighting being just one 1000w Fresnel tungsten lamp and a silver reflector. I bought a pair of these cheap Chinese knockoffs of ARRI fresnel lights ($125/ea as opposed to more like $600/ea for the ARRI lights) for the purpose of teaching my large format photography class. Since I had a need for something that would work without needing electronic synchronization (the Hermagis has no shutter, therefore no flash sync), I broke the fresnels out again for this lens test. Proof positive that you don’t have to have massive, fancy, expensive strobe lighting setups to create great portraits. That said, I wouldn’t try this with my 14×17 using hot lights – there’s just not enough light to be had without literally cooking both subject and photographer.
As I mentioned previously, the Hermagis Eidoscope does not have a shutter in addition to not having an iris diaphragm for the aperture control, so I used a pair of spare dark slides from an old 5×7 film holder, held in a V configuration, as the shutter. I was able to pull off a roughly 1/30th second shutter speed by keeping the gap between the dark slides relatively modest (about a 20 degree wedge). Eventually I’ll print these in platinum/palladium.